Go Code Denver: Event Wrap-Up
By Adrian Laurenzi
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Go Code Colorado event in Denver. This event was a hackathon and business pitch competition that emphasized creating a lasting product that produces real business value. Unlike most hackathons, which last only one or two days in one place, Go Code Denver was part of a multi-city statewide event. In each Go Code location, teams put together a short business pitch of their idea, which included the design or prototype of an app. The winning teams go on to the next phase of the competition. Over the next six weeks, they build out their app with support from mentors experienced in business and technology, before heading to the final competition for the cash prizes. Additionally, the apps are required to use at least one dataset from the Colorado Information Marketplace, Colorado’s data portal hosted by Socrata.
Go Code People and Ideas
Go Code Denver attracted a diverse and motivated group of people. About half of participants were developers and the rest were a combination of designers, project managers, business people, marketing people, and successful entrepreneurs. The app idea that stood out the most to me was called Progress Local. This app pulled data from the registered business entity dataset to create preliminary a business listing that could be claimed by the respective business owner. Once claimed, the owner could pay a small monthly fee to have their listing automatically pushed out (via API) to update all listings of their business online (e.g. Yelp, Google, FourSquare, etc). This not only increases their online presence but also ensures their business details are complete and up-to-date.
Another team created a map mashup app that overlaid different data to help a business owner select a location for their business. They had the useful idea to have buttons on the app to overlay data they didn’t have. When a user clicked the button they were told ‘data not available’ and were prompted to request the data from the state (by sending an email or similar). I think this has potential to encourage government data owners to get more data into the portal.
Go Code Takeaways
Hackathons that emphasize using data from a state-curated data portal have tremendous potential to encourage publication of open data by the state. Go Code Colorado demonstrates the value open data + creative citizens can produce and also provides a means for real users of the data to give feedback to the state on what data is lacking.
Participants saw tremendous value in the platform for its geocoding capabilities.
One interesting takeaway for me was how the teams chose to interact with the Socrata API. For their prototypes, many teams preferred to download the data in bulk and serve it into their app locally, rather than spending time to learn how to use the APIs. However, the feedback I received about the API was positive. The teams say it is designed very well and seems powerful and that, if they were to build out a real app rather than the prototype, they would definitely pull from the API because then the app would always be in sync with the live data.
Here is the list of datasets that was curated for the event.